Fathers Care More for Daughters Compared to Sons: Study

Fathers Care More for Daughters Compared to Sons: Study

Fathers pay more attention to needs of toddler daughters compared to sons, as per a new study published in the American Psychological Association journal. The study team noticed that fathers of young daughters make use of analytical language compared to men caring for a son. For boys, fathers use more of achievement-related language. The study team added that a father’s brain surely responds differently to a daughter as compared to a son.

The study team noticed a difference in attitude of men while caring for a daughter. They would respond more often to crying daughter compared to son. The study was conducted by a joint research team from Emory University and University of Arizona. The study included 52 fathers of young children. The group included 30 girls and 22 boys.

The study was led by Jennifer Mascaro, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Emory University. Mascaro said, “When a child cried out or asked for dad, fathers of daughters responded to that more than did fathers of sons. We should be aware of how unconscious notions of gender can play into the way we treat even very young children.”

The study focused on fathers because there is less research about fathers' roles in raising young children than mothers, Mascaro added.

The research paper further informed…

In addition to being more attentive, fathers of daughters sang more often and were more likely to use words associated with sad emotions, such as “cry,” “tears,” and “lonely.” Fathers of daughters also used more words associated with the body, such as “belly,” “cheek,” “face,” “fat,” and “feet.”

Fathers of sons engaged in more rough-and-tumble play with their child and used more language related to power and achievement—words such as “best,” “win,” “super,” and “top.” In contrast, fathers of daughters used more analytical language—such as “all,” “below,” and “much.” Analytical language has been linked to future academic success.

“It’s important to note that gender-biased paternal behavior need not imply ill intentions on the part of fathers,” Emory University anthropologist James Rilling says. “These biases may be unconscious, or may actually reflect deliberate and altruistically motivated efforts to shape children’s behavior in line with social expectations of adult gender roles that fathers feel may benefit their children.”

The findings, published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, are consistent with other studies indicating that parents—both fathers and mothers—use ore emotion language with girls and engage in more rough-and-tumble play with boys. It is unclear whether these differences are due to biological and evolutionary underpinnings, cultural understandings of the way one should act, or some combination of the two.

Research also shows that many adolescent girls have negative body images. “We found that fathers are using more language about the body with girls than with boys, and the differences appear with children who are just one-to-three years old,” Mascaro says.